Compression therapy is used to reduce swelling and improve circulation in the legs, most commonly post surgery. Normally, leg movement, such as walking, stimulates regular contraction and relaxation of the calf muscles to help circulate blood from the lower extremeties up to the heart. Periods of immobility, such as surgical recovery, prevent the blood from circulating to the heart and can lead to blood clots.
Compression garments, such as socks or stockings, help prevent blood from pooling in the legs, which improves circulation. The garments are designed to apply differing amounts of pressure onto various points in the leg and foot.
In the hospital, a pneumatic compression device is often used to maintain adequate blood circulation in the legs. In these cases, leg garments are hooked up to a mechanical device, which automatically applies and releases pressure to the legs, ensuring proper blood circulation.